Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Prenatal Vitamins and Supplements

So even though I'm no longer pregnant, I thought that I might share about the prenatal vitamins and supplements that I took while I was pregnant, so exciting I know. But, in my pre-pregnancy days I was always searching around online to see what supplements other pregnant vegan women were taking and there wasn't much out there. That led me to do my own research (which I actually enjoy-he he!) and decide what would work best for me. Now although I'm one researching-girl, I'm no doctor! Do not let me be your end all to be all...these are the supplements that worked best for my body and my pregnancy. Everyone is different, but at least this could be a starting point for you to get you thinking. On top of all of this, many people think it was crazy for me to be vegan and pregnant! How could you possibly be getting enough calcium/B vitamins/iron/protein? Your baby is not going to be healthy! Well, those are all very valid points and possible downsides to having a vegan diet during your pregnancy, but I feel with some simple planning and common sense you CAN have a HEALTHY, HAPPY vegan pregnancy...not to toot my own horn, but I'm living proof! 

Back when I was pregnant.
My baby girl was born 8lbs. 21 inches long.  She was alert, happy and healthy.  On top of this I had no complications with my pregnancy, labor, or delivery.  Granted I may have gotten lucky, but I like to think that all the planning I put into eating a healthy vegan diet, getting plenty of exercise (and rest) as well as taking the appropriate vitamins and supplements had something to do with it.

My vegan baby girl!
So with all that said, let me jump right into the vitamins and supplements I took when I was pregnant (many of which I continue to take now):
Update from 2014: Here's an updated version of the prenatal vitamins and supplements I took when I was pregnant with my Baby #2 (Mila!).

The top 4:
1. Prenatal Multivitamin- I took: Vitamin Code: Raw Prenatal Multivitamin. 

Approximate Cost: $30 (lasts one month)
When and how much to take: 3 capsules per day (I do 2 at breakfast, 1 at lunch)
Why do I take it: I take this pricey vitamin over a Centrum or One-A-Day prenatal is because it is made with whole-food complexes, not synthetic chemical isolates.  Meaning that our bodies recognize and absorb the nutrients better.  A key thing about this is that it also is easier for our stomachs, and when you're pregnant that is one area you definitely want to keep happy!  These supplements are so easily absorbable by your body that you can take them with or without food (most traditional vitamins must be taken with food to help with their absorption).  Although it could have been for a number of reasons, I experienced very little morning sickness (just felt hot before I would eat something first thing in the morning) and perhaps this prenatal multi had something to do with it?
Other key features: it's uncooked, untreated, contains no binders, fillers, is gluten and dairy-free, contains probiotics to help enhance mom and baby's immune systems, and ginger to help with morning sickness and digestion. It can be taken before conception, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding (I'm still taking mine now).  Here is a closer look at the ingredients and supplement facts. 
Runner Up: This is the other prenatal I considered taking because it is also food-based, but it had a bit more soy than I wanted to take, but it still may be a good option for other pregnant mamas out there. It's called: New Chapter Organics: Perfect Prenatal.

2. Calcium/Magnesium: I took: LifeTime Liquid Calcium Magnesium Citrate in Grape flavor.

Approximate Cost: $9-10 (lasts about 1 month or so)
When and how much to take: 1-2 Tbs. per day (I take it after dinner or before bed as it's been shown to help promote sleep )
What nutrients and how much? Calcium: 600 mg, Magnesium: 300 mg, Vitamin D: 400 IU
Why do I take it: It's clear that including calcium and magnesium in your diet is an essential aspect of pregnant nutrition, but when you don't drink milk, or eat cheese, yogurt, or other dairy foods how do you get this? With this delicious Cal-Mag supplement of course! "Wouldn't it be easier just to drink milk?" you may ask.  Well if you would like to drink blood and pus (see here), yes it would, but since I have an allergy to cow's milk and I don't like the mucusy feeling it gives me, I steer clear and take this instead.  
Other key features: It's free of starch, wheat, soy, gluten, milk, egg, artificial colors, artificial flavoring or preservatives, nice liquid form if you don't like swallowing pills, (the liquid form is also easier for your body to absorb and assimilate), there is also a variety of other yummy flavors like: orange, strawberry, pina colada and blueberry.

3. Vitamin D- I tookHealthy Origins: Vitamin D3 Softgels 

Approximate Cost: around $20 (lasts about 6 months if you take 2 a day)
When and how much to take: 2 softgels per day (I do 1 at breakfast, and 1 at lunch)
What nutrients and how much? Vitamin D3: 2,400 IU per softgel
Why do I take it: Awhile back I read this book called: The Vitamin D Cure by Dr. James Dowd that really opened my eyes to the importance of getting more vitamin D and how it could help decrease risks of and heal: arthritis, obesity, heart disease, muscle cramps, and even improve your skin just to name a few.  But since it's difficult to get the recommended dosage from the sun on a consistent basis, I started looking into supplements. This is where things get a bit debatable in the vegan community because there are two forms of vitamin D: D2 and D3.  I won't bore you with the details, but here's the pros and con of each: D3 comes from lanolin which is derived from sheep's wool (not-vegan), yet it is very easily absorbed and assimilated by the body.  D2 on the other hand comes from plant sources (vegan), but many sources say it is not easily absorbed by the body.  So what's a vegan to do? Well, this vegan chose the D3.  I know how important vitamin D is and I'd rather have my money going to something my body can use and get the most benefit least it's still vegetarian.
Other key features: Not only is vitamin D great for everyone's health, it's especially important for pregnant women.  A recent study was done that showed a group of women who took 4,000 IU daily during their pregnancies had less chances of: early labor, premature birth, and infection...compared to other pregnant women who took smaller doses of vitamin D.  You can read more about this study and the benefits of vitamin D and pregnancy here.  Throughout my pregnancy I took two softgels a day, giving me 4,800 IU of vitamin D from this source alone and I did not experience early labor, premature birth, or infection.  Whether it was due to this supplement I guess I'll never know, but there sure seemed to be more possible benefits in taking it, as opposed to not taking it.

4. Vitamin B ComplexI took: Douglas Laboratories Balanced B-Complex 50 mg

Approximate Cost: $12-15 (lasts 3 months)
When and how much to take: 1 tablet per day at lunch
What nutrients and how much? Thiamine B-1: 50mg (3,333% DV), Riboflavin B-2: 50mg (2,941% DV), Niacinamide: 50mg (250% DV), Vitamin B-6: 50mg (2,500% DV), Vitamin B-12: 50mcg (833% DV).
Why do I take it: Kind of like calcium, B vitamins are one of those things that us vegans might be a bit low in, and although there are some food sources (such as nutritional yeast), I wanted to be safe so I started this B vitamin before getting pregnant.  Granted, there are tons of complex B supplements out there, even "raw" and food-based ones like the multivitamin I mentioned above, but I did some work with a naturopath in the spring before I got pregnant, and this is the one he recommended for me.  And since my body was "cool with it", I decided not to switch it up during my pregnancy.  Another great thing about this B vitamin is that it's high in vitamin B6, which has been shown to help prevent and treat morning sickness during pregnancy, and as I mentioned before, I did not suffer hardly any morning sickness...perhaps I have this vitamin to thank?
Other key features:  It's free of yeast, wheat gluten, soy protein, milk/dairy, corn, sodium, sugar, starch, artificial coloring, preservatives or flavoring.  With my vegan diet, I continue to take this supplement, but now every other day. 
Update...I now take this one by Garden of Life Vitamin Code: Raw B Complex $12 (I take 2 a day):

The extras:
1. Elderberry Juice:  I took: Wyldewood Cellars Elderberry Juice Concentrate.

Approximate Cost: $20-25 (lasts about 2 months).
When and how much to take: 1 Tbs. per day in an 8 oz. glass of water first thing in the morning
Why do I take it: Early in my pregnancy I was battling a cold and someone recommended that I try some elderberry juice.  I gave it a try and I have been hooked ever since!  Elderberry juice is not a medicine, but a food.  When taken, it has been shown to stimulate the immune system thus preventing colds and flus as well as treating conditions such as: allergies, arthritis, eczema, constipation, yeast infections, H1N1, and even diabetes just to name a few.  On top of this, elderberry juice is also high  in  natural anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, antioxidants, and vitamin C.  Since I started taking elderberry juice each morning, I have hardly been sick and I feel like my allergies have really improved.  Back in the day, I used to take Benadryl, Allegra, and it's just elderberry juice and the neti pot. Gotta love it!  It's great not having to buy all those medications, or better yet, have them in my body! Of all the supplements I talk about in this post, I highly suggest you give this one a try, since it can treat and prevent a multitude of conditions. Surely you can benefit from it in some way! Here is a brochure detailing more benefits about the elderberry juice concentrate, and here is one with customer reviews. 
Other key features: The Wyldewood Cellars brand that I use, says that they have the highest concentrated Elderberry Juice on the market.  Also, the concentrate has no added sugars, artificial sweeteners, or alcohol.  I use this brand because it is produced locally and available at my local health food store, and although you can purchase it online, I'm sure there might be other good brands out there for you to try. 

2. Evening Primrose OilI took: EfaGold: Evening Primrose Cold Pressed Oil 500 mg.

Approximate Cost: $12 (lasts one month)
When and how much to take: 2 softgels per day (I do 1 at breakfast, 1 at lunch) during the last month of pregnancy.  Now that I've had my baby, I take 1 softgel per day at breakfast.
What nutrients and how much? Evening primrose oil: 500 mg
Why do I take it: Evening Primrose Oil, or EPO, as it's often called, is high in Vitamin E, and the essential fatty acid: gamma linoleic acid (GLA). The essential fatty acids are converted to prostaglandins in the body, which is a hormone necessary for a variety of body functions.  I didn't start taking this supplement until about the last month of my pregnancy, as I heard it could prepare the cervix for delivery and make labor more comfortable for mother and baby.  Come to find out, evening primrose oil can also be helpful for women that are trying to get pregnant because it has been shown to help women produce more cervical mucus and (which helps guide the sperm to the egg) as well as increase the survival rate of sperm in the mucus.  EPO can also be used towards the end of pregnancy, by being inserted vaginally or massaged into the perineum to prepare it for labor (Sorry for the TMI, just wanted you to know the full potential of this supplement).    Last, EPO has been found helpful for those that aren't pregnant, in how it can treat: bloating, cramping and breast tenderness due to PMS, joint pain due to arthritis, and even some skin conditions like acne.  Read more here or here.
One last note: This product does contain gelatin, which makes it non-vegan, and although there are vegan versions available online, this one worked well for me, so I'm sticking to it.

3. Vitamin C- I tookEster-C Immune Support 1000mg

Approximate Cost: $12-13 (lasts about 2 months)
When and how much to take: 2 tablets a day (I do 1 at breakfast, 1 at lunch)
What nutrients and how much? Vitamin C: 1000mg
Why do I take it: Ever since I started my job as a teacher I increased my vitamin C, mainly as a preventive measure since there are so many germs going around (my students are 3-5 years old).  Then before I was pregnant I came across this brand which claims to use a unique formula that is "non-acidic, stomach-friendly, and easily absorbed by the body."  I feel like it's been helpful in combination with my diet and the other supplements I take in preventing me from getting sick, and it hasn't given my stomach any trouble.  On top of this, it turns out that it may have also been beneficial for my here.  Basically the idea is that vitamin C plays a critical role in forming collagen, thus it could be helpful in supporting the growing skin on your belly and breasts during pregnancy.  (I was lucky enough to not get any stretch marks during my pregnancy...perhaps vitamin C was to thank?).   All in all, I've been pretty happy with this vitamin C supplement and you might give it a try if your looking for good one.
Other key features:  this brand is free of: yeast, wheat, milk derivatives, lactose, sugar, preservatives, soy, artificial color, artificial flavor, sodium.

4. Probiotic- I took: Ortho Molecular Products: Ortho Biotic

Approximate Cost: $30 (lasts 2 months) or on here.
When and how much to take: 1 capsules every other day before bed
What nutrients and how much? 20 Billion CFU of a variety of probiotic organisms, 2 Billion CFU of saccharomyces boulardii
Why do I take it: In the past I've had issues with my gut, one of the reasons why I had so many food sensitives on the test I mentioned in this page about going gluten-free. But thanks to this probiotic, much of the damage I previously had has been repaired.  These days, I take this probiotic for maintenance and prevention, just to keep the good bacteria in check in my gut and ward off too much bad bacteria. There are many probiotics on the market, but just as with the vitamin B supplement I mentioned above, I started taking this probiotic when working with a natruopath last spring, and it seems to work well with my body.  So when I became pregnant, I continued taking it.  Something kind of special about this probiotic is the special ingredient included: saccharomyces boulardii.  This funny sounding ingredient according to the product website: "...a proven potentiator for good bacteria that removes pathogens from the gut. This action enables a more effective probiotic presence, encouraging a healthy environment for vitamin uptake and immune support. "   Sounds good to me!
Other key features: There is some research out there that shows probiotics during pregnancy can: decrease your babies chances of developing allergies and eczema, and reduce belly fat in mothers after birth, among other things. 
Update...I now use this brand: Renew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50 Billion ($35 for 30 capsules).

So here are my food supplements:
1. Hemp SeedsI took: Nutiva Organic Shelled Hempseeds

Approximate Cost: $13 for 13oz. (lasts 2-3 weeks or so)
When and how much to take: 3 Tbs. per day
What nutrients and how much? 11g protein, 7.5 g Omega 6 LA, 3g Omega 3 ALA
Why do I take it: For protein and omegas! No soy, whey, or rice protein for me...I love these hemp seeds because they are a whole food with one ingredient- shelled hemp seeds.  I put 3 Tbs. in my smoothie each morning to get some protein and healthy omega fatty acids.

2. Chia SeedsI tookBob's Red Mill Chia Seeds 

Approximate Cost: $8 (lasts 2-3 months)
When and how much to take: 1 Tbs. per day in my morning smoothie
What nutrients and how much? 5g fiber, 3g protein, 2900mg Omega 3, 1100mg Omega 6
Why do I take it: .  Yes, these are the same seeds used in Chia Pets back in the day, but chia seeds have actually been around for thousands of years and were staple in the diets of Aztec and Mayan warriors.   Chia seeds have some pretty impressive stats in how they have: more antioxidants than blueberries, more calcium than milk, and more fiber than most bran products! Chia seeds can also help you feel fuller for longer, keep you hydrated, increase your endurance, reduce your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, and possibly help control diabetes.  Read more about why you should be eating these seeds on a daily basis here.  Best of all, you don't need much...1-2 Tbs. a day is it! Just add them to a smoothie, sprinkle on oatmeal, or add to juice.  You've got to try these and see if you see any improvement to your health and energy levels!

3. Raw CacaoI took: Ojio 100% Organic Raw Cacao Powder

Approximate Cost: $13-15 (lasts 3 weeks)
When and how much to take: 2 Tbs. per day in my morning smoothie...see the video recipe here.
What nutrients and how much? Fiber: 8g, Protein: 7g, Iron: 45% DV
Why do I take it: Now who doesn't love chocolate? I know it's a favorite of mine, and although many people think that dark chocolate is the healthiest around, raw cacao (pronounced ka-cow) actually takes the cake...or chocolate cake that is!  Raw cacao is considered a "superfood" because it is high in minerals like iron (gives you 45% of your daily value...this is awesome for pregnant women!), as well as minerals that can help improve circulation and reduce the risk of heart attacks.  Last, it has more antioxidants than acai! You can read about even more benefits here, then give this yummy chocolate a try!

Last but not least, how about a multivitamin for guys? You know I got my hubby on one before we started trying to get pregnant, and here it is:
 He took: Rainbow Light: Men's One Food-Based Multivitamin 

Approximate Cost: $20 (lasts about 5 months)
When and how much to take: 1 tablet per day (at breakfast)
Why do I like this one: I explained the benefits of using food-based supplements with my prenatal multi above, such as how our bodies recognize and absorb the nutrients better and they're easier on our stomachs.  Granted this multi is not "raw" like mine (mainly because of how much it would cost to have both of us on $30 a month multivitamins...ouch!) but I am happy that it is still food-based and full of great nutrients and minerals to help my hubby have energy, stay strong, and be healthy.  He likes that he only has to take one tablet a day too...not like my multi where I have to take 3.  I'm all about making it easy for him! ( :
Other key features: It is also free of artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, sugar, lactose/dairy, wheat, gluten and yeast.

So that's the prenatal vitamin and supplement routine I followed before, during, and mainly after my pregnancy.  Again, I am not a doctor so even though these supplements worked great for me, research yourself and do what fits you, your baby, and your diet/lifestyle.  Have any questions? Feel free to post them below and I'll answer them the best I can.


  1. You rock!

    I feel like I'm benefitting greatly from having met you through my Etsy store! You do great research! You also remind me a little bit of my best friend~ she's been taking evening primrose oil and various things for years. Her baby eats these snacks FOR babies (and they look like cereal) but they're totally green and made from healthy veggies. It makes me excited to be a mom!

    I've had food allergies since my early 20's so I can relate to a lot of what you do. I've been taking probiotics off and on for a few years. I do a lot of wheatgrass and cranActin capsules and Omega 3's. I eat mainly mediterranean food and a bit of chicken. Thanks so much for all of the tips! I'm excited to try the Elderberry and a few others.

    Thanks for researching so thoroughly for the rest of us!!

  2. Hey Tina, I'm so glad we met on Etsy as well. Happy to hear my research is helpful for you, it's been for me too because sometimes I'll start taking a supplement because of something I read in a book. But then a few months later, I'll be like, "Why am I taking this again?" So researching this post was helpful to remember all of the benefits of these supplements.

    That "green cereal" sounds cool...and I'm sure you're going to be one great mama! ( :

    Yeah food allergies are not so fun. I started taking probiotics a few years back mainly because I was having some issues with candida and yeast infections...lovely I know. But things seem to have balanced back out, and I think this probiotic is to thank. I've always wanted to try wheat grass after seeing the documentary: Crazy, Sexy, Cancer, but wasn't sure how to get it so I could have it at home...since it needs a special juicer and all. How do you do it?
    You'll have to let me know how you like some of the supplements I posted about.
    Have a good weekend! ( :

  3. I have a corn allergy (I get awful stomach pains from corn). Is the prenatal vit corn free as well?

  4. Thanks for your article! I use hemp and chia seed too and love them!! Do you know if the Raw One is free of yeast? I am severely allergic and would hate to go into anaphylactic shock while pregnant!

  5. HI :) Great article, thank you sooo much! One question, I noticed you got your husband on a multi by Rainbow Light. I have been looking into Rainbow Light's Prenatal One. Would you consider it a good prenatal or am I missing something?



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